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Bob Lobel: Assisted Living

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 

I have a handicap card hanging from my rear view mirror. I also have a golf handicap in my wallet which is a lot older than the one in my car.

There is no bragging or whining in this column, just observation and speculation. The only way I can play golf today is by using a so-called “assisted living” golf cart. Why is that? For the past four years, with three back surgeries and two broken femur bone heads from falls, I cannot walk without the aid of crutches. It means I can't stand up without assistance. It means that I need a special golf cart called a solo rider or another called a paragolfer to play.

Either of those two “assisted playing” devices are allowed to go on greens or in bunkers because they weigh less than golf green mowers. Allowed, but not by one and all. Public courses by law must allow such carts, private courses are another matter. It depends on the course and the course superintendent. Some supers don’t like golfers to be on their courses much less strange machines on their greens. Another story for another time.

I can single out the champions of this great personal cause, and a cause that clearly has benefits for returning wounded warriors. Bob Beech of the Braintree Country Club is my hero. Brian Lynch of Mt. Pleasant in Boylston is another. The International in Bolton, and Red Tail at Ft. Devens are two enlightened courses besides being beautiful.

My home course has saved me by leasing a solo rider and storing it so I can play there. The spectacular Granite Links in Quincy stores, charges and loads the solo rider on a cart if I want to play at those places I just mentioned, along with Pine Hills in Plymouth and Wyndham Country Club in N.H.

Finding courses that let you play is one challenge, finding courses that have even heard of a solo rider, let alone have one, is another. Fortunately, Braintree, Granite Links and Wyndham have them. Resorts in Orlando, Florida, have them as well. Ask me and I'll tell you, all courses should have at least one. Call Bob Beech at Braintree or Chris Sleeper at Granite Links.

13th Hole, Granite Links

The photo is from last summer at Granite Links. It's not meant to scare anyone, but I was driving and the picture was taken. I was under it but unhurt. I mean, I couldn’t walk before that happened, and I couldn’t walk after it. It's a lot safer than the picture shows. 

It’s a game we all should be able to play. It’s the least some of us can do to offer returning vets a chance to do something they probably thought they could never do again. It's up to communities and courses to make this possible. The cost is around $9,000 for a solo rider and double that for a paragolfer. Needless to say, paragolfers are a lot easier to use, but I'm not complaining.

It’s a different game for me, but I enjoy it more. Things have changed: my distance is reduced, but I keep it in play. (Unless I'm trying to hit from under it.) I love the fact that I can still play with friends who do accommodate some of my issues. I can't believe that I enjoy the game more since the physics have changed. I have a different handicap in my wallet but don’t lose money. For the record, I don’t make it either. I don’t get enough putts given to me, but that was always the case.

Of course, there are some courses that absolutely will not let me bring the solo rider to play. What's the point in naming them? They know who turned me down, and they know they can change it all by getting a cart and publicizing the fact they support handicaps. And not just the ones given out by the USGA. 

 

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